CBA Record May-June 2021

3 – 4 times a week. Regular exercise helps sharpen mind- fulness as well. When exercising, use each of the five senses to acknowledge what and how you perceive. There is no right or wrong way to sense what is happening around you, and the recognition of the sensual experience, without judgment, enhances the moment and frees the mind. The guidelines of The U.S. Depart- ment of Health and Human Services have determined that positive results can be gained by 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity per week. This breaks down to 20-45 minutes a day. The activity does not need to be continuous, so exercise can be divided throughout the day and week. Gratitude Finally, the fourth building block: grati- tude. Studies indicate that identifying people, places, and things for which to be grateful is relaxing and helps us stay in the present moment. The psychological theory of Reciprocal Inhibition tells us that we cannot feel two contradictory states (e.g., stress and gratefulness) simultaneously. Stress is often brought about by fear, and fear is generated when we judge our present circumstances in light of what has hap- pened in the past, or negative projections of what will happen in the future. Gratitude brings into focus the positive aspects of our lives currently, thereby increasing our happiness, distracting from the misfortunes in our lives, while reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. When preparing a gratitude list, be grateful for specific people, places, and things; be grateful for the present; and after each item, take a few moments to feel the physical and emotional response to each item on the gratitude list. This enhances the psychological and physical benefits. Simple, but not easy, until we try.

or will be. This also means we are not afraid. Fear comes about when we observe a person, place, or thing and are triggered by memories of what happened in the past in a similar situation, or project what may happen in the future. This judgment clouds our observation and creates stress by distorting the moment. But when we are in the present moment in a non-judgmental way, there is no room for fear. This is where mindfulness comes into play. Four building blocks, if practiced regu- larly (either together or individually), can help us stay in the present moment in a non-judgmental way. These four building blocks are: breathing, meditation, exercise and gratitude. Breathing The first building block, and the simplest, is breathing. Breathing, most of the time, is a regular part of life that we accomplish without thinking. We breathe uncon- sciously, mindlessly, without distraction or judgment. Yet without breathing, we would not exist. The most marketable commodity of lawyers is an ability to think. We think better when more oxygen gets to the brain. When we are tense, our arteries and capil- laries constrict, making it more difficult for oxygen to reach the brain (as well as the other muscles in the body). This is compounded by sedentary work habits. Take a moment and pay attention to how you breathe – slowly, evenly. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. With each breath, feel the lungs fill and empty. For maximum benefit, conduct a concentrated exercise known as “box breathing” – inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4 and relax for a count of 4 before the next breath. Four sides to the box. And repeat. Visualize the oxygen entering the nose, circulating up through the brain, through the body all the way down to the toes, then back up from the feet, through the lungs, and out the mouth as you exhale. Feel the tension release throughout the body with each breath. Meditation The second building block, and often the

most misunderstood, is meditation. I once thought meditation invoked a vision of a guru sitting cross-legged on a mountaintop chanting ohm, but medita- tion can be performed anywhere, at any time, with little needed but an open mind. However, studies indicate the most effec- tive way to meditate is when sitting in a dignified position, with the back straight- ened but relaxed, arms resting on the legs or on a platform like armrests of a chair, head erect, and feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and sense different body parts and what you feel – how much tension do you feel and where do you feel it – in your jaw, your neck, your arms, your torso, your legs. If you are not comfortable closing your eyes, meditate with eyes open and let your gaze fall unfocused a few feet in front of you. Build on the breathing techniques we just reviewed. While paying attention to breathing, repeat the following four lines slowly: May I be safe; Pause for 10 – 15 seconds, and repeat the process, with regularity, another 3 – 4 times. This exercise can be done in just a few minutes. If you are unsure of how long this should take, set an alarm for 3 – 4 minutes and continue concentrating until the timer rings. Once you get into the habit, the meditation time can be expanded to 10, 20 or even 30 minutes. While it is best to meditate shortly after awakening, it can be done at any time – and several times during the day. Exercise The third building block, as time permits, is exercise. You do not need to train for a marathon, but periodic breaks comprising something as simple as a short walk helps clear the mind and fosters relaxation. Of course, a regular exercise routine brings multiple advantages as well as mindful- ness. Regular exercise improves circulation, lowers the risks of heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure, among other health benefits. Whether you enjoy walk- ing, running, cycling, swimming or other forms of movement, exercise has the best benefits when maintained a minimum of May I be happy; May I be healthy; May I live with ease.

Brendan Cournane ( o r BMCour nane@ is a certified personal development coach and Co-Chair of the CBA’s LawyerWell- Being and Mindfulness Committee.


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